07/04/2007 12:00AM

Pair of 7-year-olds end losing streaks on turf

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Two turf veterans ended long losing streaks Tuesday night at Mountaineer Race Track.

Water Gap ($12.60), a 7-year-old mare who had lost 18 straight grass races since her last victory in September 2004, won the Firecracker for fillies and mares while 7-year-old gelding Cherokee Prince ($16) snapped his five-race skid by holding off Load a Chronic by a head to defend his title in the Independence Day. Both stakes were contested at one mile on the turf and were worth $75,000.

Water Gap, ridden by Marco Ccamque for trainer Leroy Simon, swung six wide into the stretch, drew even with Sassy Skipper in midstretch, and edged clear by 1 ¾ lengths at the wire while completing the mile in 1:35.88 over a firm course. Beautiful Venue finished second, a length in front of Sassy Skipper.

Churchill Downs shipper Miss Wellspring finished fifth as the 3-2 favorite.

Cherokee Prince, trained by Ron Allen and ridden by John Perez Jr., benefited from a light weight assignment of 109 pounds after carrying 120 and 123 pounds in his last two starts. He was a four-time winner last season, but had not finished first since taking the Labor Day last September.

Cherokee Prince just held off the late rally of the Arlington Park-based Load a Chronic, who finished two lengths clear of Cat Shaker. The winning time was 1:35.33.

Puppeteer, the winner of the Memorial Day Handicap and a starter allowance just 10 days earlier, finished sixth as the 9-5 favorite.

In the third stakes on the program, the $75,000 Mountain State on the main track, favored Bernie Blue ($4.20) successfully shortened up from his win in last month’s mile-and-70-yard Slipton Fell to 5 ½ furlongs. Trained by Miguel Feliciano, Bernie Blue was hand-ridden late by Ricardo Feliciano and finished 1 ¾ lengths ahead of 5-2 second choice Cognac Kisses. Lucky Express was 9 ½ farther back in third. The winning time was 1:04.32.